Burglaries and thefts are rising in the area | Page 7
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UP F RONT
Battle over Stanford mixed-use project heats up in Menlo Park By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
ven as Stanford confirms that it has agreed to make changes to its proposed eight-acre complex on El Camino Real, according to a university spokesperson, Menlo Park residents report that the university has conducted a telephone poll to gauge support for the project and a grassroots coalition has raised thousands of dollars to pay for lawyers to fight the development. The latest proposal eliminates all medical office space. The university has also agreed to help fund a pedestrian-bike crossing at Middle Avenue to pass under the railroad tracks, work with Menlo Park to design a plaza and vehicular access to the complex, and pay for a neighborhood cut-through traffic study with parameters set by the city, according to the subcommittee, which consists of council members Kirsten Keith and Catherine Carlton. â€œWe are negotiating to make this the best project that it can be. I look forward to continued revisions to improve the project,â€? Councilwoman Keith told the Almanac on Aug. 5. The subcommittee has been meeting with city staff, representatives of Save Menlo, the coalition organized to oppose the eight-acre mixed-use development, and other neighborhood representatives. A joint endeavor between Stanford and developer John Arrillaga, the project is proposed under the regulations implemented by the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan.
The plan is to replace mostly vacant car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with 199,500 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail and up to 170 apartments. There would be a public plaza at Middle Avenue with two car lanes, along with a pedestrian and bicycle path from El Camino Real to the future undercrossing. The amount Stanford will chip in for the undercrossing remains to be determined; the goal is to make sure thereâ€™s enough funding to build it in a timely manner, the subcommittee said. City staff did not yet have an estimate of construction costs.
Stanford conducts phone poll as the opposition raises funds for lawyers. Save Menlo has publicly stated that it wants zero medical office space and a smaller overall project. While not all residents object to the development, last weekâ€™s announcement left the coalitionâ€™s members dissatisfied, to say the least. â€œI am shocked that the subcommittee is reporting on these Stanford Proposals prior to any discussion of them with the Neighborhood representatives. How can negotiations take place when they are usurped midstream,â€? George Fisher, the groupâ€™s liaison to the subcommittee, wrote in an email to the council. â€œI am very disappointed and want to be sure you all understand that I feel personally taken advantage of and civically ashamed
that the needs of the greater Menlo Park community have been unduly sacrificed. In short, I feel â€˜sold outâ€™ by the very people I am trying to help, without the courtesy of being allowed to comment or even being informed of the suggestions.â€? Save Menlo spokeswoman Perla Ni said they believe the university â€œis politically and unduly inf luencing the city to fast-track the development so that they can get vested rights and to delay the review of the Specific Plan.â€? Ms. Ni said the overall size of the complex has not changed, which will still contribute to traffic and housing problems without bringing much benefit to Menlo Park. The group aims to raise $7,500 by Aug. 15 to pay for the cost of retaining Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, a law firm specializing in land-use issues. Donors had chipped in $4,700 by the Almanacâ€™s deadline. Save Menlo has also asked for volunteers to create street-level drawings of the proposed complex, review alternative proposals and conduct further research. In the meantime, Menlo Park residents told the Almanac they have been getting phone calls conducting a poll on behalf of Stanford that reportedly asked about the universityâ€™s contribution to the community, aspects of the proposed mixed-use development such as size, and whether the university is a good neighbor. The council will start reviewing the specific plan in September, according to city staff, to give the subcommittee time to finish its work. A
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Voters face $60 million bond measure By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
oters in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District will be asked in November to approve a $60 million bond measure to pay for building permanent classrooms and upgrading existing buildings. The school board unanimously approved the ballot measure on Aug. 6. Renovation projects at both district schools — Las Lomitas (K-3) in Atherton and La
Entrada (4-8) in Menlo Park — are needed to accommodate dramatic enrollment increases, district officials say. The bond measure needs the support of 55 percent of the voters to pass. To meet the debt service on a $60 million bond, property owners would pay about $30 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation of taxable property, according to Carolyn Chow, the district’s chief business officer. Enrollment in the last 10 years has climbed by 40 percent, and
The project would replace 18 portable structures with new two-story classroom buildings. when school opens later this month, enrollment is expected to rise by another 70 students to a total of 1,444. It is expected to increase by 46 the following year, Ms. Chow said. The enrollment growth is
significantly higher than predicted by demographic studies done before 2010. One study projected growth to taper off in 2015, but a study done about three years ago determined that the pre-2015 growth projections of the older study were far too low, and the “leveling off ” prediction inaccurate. To accommodate the additional students, each of the two schools uses nine portable classrooms, which would be eliminated if the bond measure passes.
In a staff report released last February, projects and their costs are broken into three priority lists. Funds needed to pay for “Priority 1” projects — described as improvements “to accommodate students in permanent classrooms to ensure the most conducive learningteaching environments” — total slightly more than $59 million. To eliminate all 18 portable buildings on the two campuses, See BOND MEASURE, page 8
Bookkeeper found not guilty in embezzlement case By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
fter an 11-day trial, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in an embezzlement case filed against Jenny Lin Marquardt, a former bookkeeper at Menlo Atherton Glass. “The jury acquitted her because she was innocent,” defense attorney Charles J. Smith said the day after the Aug. 6 verdict. The 29-year-old woman had been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 in the form of allegedly unauthorized bonuses during a three-year period, according to the district attorney’s office, which said that an outside bookkeeper hired by the Menlo Park business to review the records uncovered discrepancies. The company reported the missing money to police in June 2012. Ms. Marquardt followed her employer’s bonus policy, Mr. Smith said, as demonstrated by the store’s financial records. A former
prosecutor, he described the police investigation as “atrociously bad.” The district attorney’s court notes indicate that at one point the defense recalled Menlo Park police officer Felicia Byars to question her about the calculations on the spreadsheet she used to analyze the data. Officer Byars was not immediately available for comment. Prosecutor Kari Gannam believed that poor record-keeping and confusing testimony by the business owner presented significant weaknesses to the case, coupled with a defendant who came across sympathetically to the jury, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. “These are just observations, not excuses. The jury reviewed the evidence and arrived at their verdict. That is how the system is supposed to work,” Mr. Wagstaffe commented. He said the prosecutor does not share Mr. Smith’s viewpoint as to the police investigation.
Photo by Sofia Biros/The Almanac
Night out Brooke Matthes-Davis, 4, plays with a hoola hoop at a National Night Out street festival on Aug. 6 at the Menalto Corners business community in Menlo Park. Neighborhood gatherings are held throughout the country on that night with the aim of building community connections and creating neighborhood watch programs to prevent crime.
Election 2013: Three in race for Atherton council seat By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
t will be a three-way race for a single seat on the Atherton City Council in November, with Greg Conlon, Rick DeGolia and Diane Sandhu qualifying for the ballot when the filing deadline closed Friday. All three candidates had applied for appointment to the council last month, when the council had hoped to agree on one of seven applicants for the seat left vacant with Jerry Carlson’s July 1 resignation. When
council members split down the middle on their choice, they called for an election on Nov. 5. Mr. Conlon, a longtime member of the town’s Audit/Finance Committee and its Rail Committee, ran for the council last November, coming in a close third behind incumbent Elizabeth Lewis and challenger Cary Wiest in the race for two seats. Mr. DeGolia was appointed to the town’s Community Center Advisory Committee in January, and serves as chair of that group’s library subcommittee. His current appointments rep-
resent his first civic activities in Atherton. Ms. Sandhu was appointed to the Audit/Finance Committee last September, and was reappointed to a two-year term in June. She also is a newcomer to civic involvement with her current committee work. Residents John Ruggeiro and Michael Stogner, who also applied for appointment to the seat last month, took out candidate papers but didn’t file them. The winner in the November election will serve out Mr.
Carlson’s term which ends in December 2014. The town faces big issues in the near future, with renewal of the parcel tax — supported by the four current council members — on the November ballot, and negotiations with the police union in progress. Mr. DeGolia and Mr. Conlon say they strongly support renewal of the parcel tax, which raises about $1.8 million to pay for police and public works services for the town. Ms. Sandhu was somewhat lukewarm in her support of the
tax. She says it’s “more than likely” needed at this point, but that the town needs to look at other revenue sources in the future. The police contract is a the hot-button issue, and the police union was an active participant in last November’s election, sending mailers to residents with warnings about dire consequences of compensation cuts, and endorsing Ms. Lewis and Mr. Wiest. In an interview last month, Mr. DeGolia said the town needs to ensure that police compensation is “rational and supSee ELECTION 2013, page 8
August 14, 2013 N TheAlmanacOnline.com N The Almanac N 5
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“The result for Menlo Park will be an improved and more honest arbitration selection process and a more sustainable arrangement in terms of long term obligations on the city’s finances. But more importantly, it means we have a strong leadership team within our police department to keep doing the great work we have come to expect.” Councilman Ray Mueller said the change keeps litigation expenses down while eliminating one of the major drawbacks of binding arbitration. “This is a terrifically positive term change in the interest of justice,” Mr. Mueller said, because now the city could have disciplinary appeals heard by local judges instead of “an outof-towner who makes a living by cozying up to employers and/or labor unions.”
proposed contract with the police sergeants union eases Menlo Park’s retirement obligations for new employees. But the more some things change, the more they stay the same: The city opted to keep binding arbitration for police misconduct cases. The contract splits the appeals process in two — one procedure for grievances, such as labor violations, and another for appealing discipline more severe than a letter of reprimand, such as suspension or termination. The city and union would now be able to select an arbitrator from a pool of retired San Mateo County judges, according to the contract. But the arbitrator’s decision would still be final. The proposed contract also sets retirement benefits for new Vasquez case The Almanac broke the story police employees at 2.7 percent of their highest salary at age earlier this year about the arrest, 57 — for current officers it’s 3 firing and reinstatement of veteran Menlo Park percent at 50. police officer JefAs a result of the frey Vasquez. The reduced benefits, The proposed veteran police police employcontract reduces officer, fired after ees hired after Jan. 1 will pay pension benefits being caught naked with a 11.5 percent into for new police prostitute in a CalPERS; current motel room and employees pay 12 employees. reportedly admitpercent, Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome- ting that wasn’t the first time he’d solicited a hooker for sex, Robinson said. The city would establish a was reinstated through bindmanagement advisory commit- ing arbitration and awarded tee that would meet quarterly, $188,000 in back pay. Were the Vasquez case to and implement an employee recognition program to recog- occur under the new arbitration process, it would end the same nize exemplary performance. Council members described way should the arbitrator rule the proposed changes as a move to revoke the officer’s terminatoward long-term financial sus- tion. Binding arbitration decisions tainability for Menlo Park. Although in the past, all council in police misconduct remain members expressed an interest confidential unless both parties in changing binding arbitration, agree to release the informacouncil members said it’s only tion. The Almanac obtained 17 one of many items to modify redacted decisions from multiin the interest of improving the ple California jurisdictions. The reversal rate? About 59 percent. city’s the long-term future. Don’t assume the council Arbitrators reinstated the offithinks the new process is pref- cers nine times, and shortened erable to getting rid of binding one suspension. They upheld arbitration, Councilman Rich terminations in the remaining Cline said, noting that many seven cases. Academic studies of similar cities in the region use binding arbitration to resolve disciplin- binding arbitration cases in Chicago and Houston show approxiary matters. “Ultimately, we feel good mately the same reversal rate. How much impact will selectthat both parties were able to find common ground regarding ing retired local judges as arbiselection of an arbitrator that trators have? ensures selection of a competent See BINDING ARBITRATION, page 11 local arbitrator,” Mr. Cline said.
R EAL E STATE Q&A
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by Monica Corman
Choosing the Right Roof Dear Monica: It is time to reroof my house and I am finding that fire codes have changed since I installed a wood shake roof 25 years ago. Now I am being told that a new shake roof won’t last more than about 15 years because of code changes. Do you have any advice on which material I should choose? James R. Dear James: The codes have changed since you last installed a new roof and it is true that the previous 25-30 year life expectancy for a wood shake roof has been cut in half by the new codes. The old roofs were installed over a layer of air which was great for ventilation and helped to dry the roof after a rain, but which was a Photo by Sofia Biros/The Almanac
Distraction zone Construction workers oversee irrigation pipeline replacement along Santa Cruz Avenue at Evelyn Street in Menlo Park on Aug. 9. The city estimates the project to replace the pipeline on Santa Cruz Avenue, from El Camino Real to University Drive (at Peet’s Coffee), will take two more months to complete. After tree roots broke through segments of the approximately 40-year-old pipeline, the city opted to replace the system. The project will cost the city about $336,723, along with inconvenience to merchants, patrons and bicyclists who now have to skirt the construction zone.
Burglaries, thefts are rising By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
olice reports from Menlo Park, Woodside, Atherton and Portola Valley from the last two weeks of July and the first 10 days of August show estimated losses of $115,455 from some 66 incidents of burglary and theft. The list includes two residential burglaries, one in Ladera and one in Menlo Park, in which the losses in each incident were set at $30,000, and another burglary in Menlo Park for an $11,000 loss. The losses included jewels, electronic gear, tools and bicycles — including four bikes with a combined value of $28,000. The damages include smashed car windows, pried open doors, ruined coin boxes on apartmentcomplex washing machines and, for people with offices on the crest of Sand Hill Road, a wakeup call to the vulnerability of their desks to thievery while away for lunch. In short, lives disrupted by crime. Rates of property crime are up in the region, said Commander Dave Bertini of the Menlo Park Police Department. Teams of daytime burglars are working the Bay Area, their methods refined to quick and efficient action that does not draw attention to what they’re doing, he said. “These guys are really fast,” Mr. Bertini said.
Teams of daytime burglars move quickly and don’t draw attention, police say. Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office noted that sophistication on the job is is not limited to legitimate work. “Anybody that does any job tries to become
most effective at it. If you’re a burglar and this is your chosen profession, if you can call it that, you might study people’s (habits),” Ms. Rosenblatt said. “You can become exceedingly good at your job.” “Fortunately,” she added, “it is our job to be more savvy and more on it (than the burglars).” Possibly toward that end, detectives from throughSee BURGLARIES, page 11
How to secure your home In addition to the basic advice of locking doors and windows — the entry points most sought by burglars and thieves — the Menlo Park Police Department offers residents an analysis from an in-house team of officers and community service officers trained in techniques that make a home less inviting to would-be criminals. The Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) program recommends steps such as a wellkept property, a fence to reinforce territorial boundaries, and lighting and clear lines of sight that make concealing oneself on a property more difficult. Go to tinyurl.com/MP-203 for more information.
The family name on a mailbox serves as an entry point, Commander Dave Bertini said. A web search for an address can answer many basic questions. With a name and/or an address, an enterprising burglar can track a resident on social media and pick up useful information about what’s in the house and the most opportune time to pay it a visit. The average resident doesn’t think like a criminal, said Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Locking doors and windows and not leaving a house key under a doormat are the most important steps. “It isn’t new advice, but it’s advice that people don’t often take,” she said.
bad design if there was a fire, as the air layer caused the fire to spread rapidly. Now the codes require that the shakes be installed on a layer of sheathing and this cuts the fire risk but increases the risk of dry rot as it keeps the roof from drying after rain. You have several choices of roofing materials and one of the most common and durable is composition shingle. It is one of the most reasonably priced roofs and can last 40+ years. Other more expensive choices are metal, tile, and man-made materials made to look like wood shakes. Some of these materials increase energy efficiency as well and are better choices if you are also installing solar panels on them. Do some research and you will be able to make a good choice.
For answers to any questions you may have on real estate, you may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 462-1111, Alain Pinel Realtors. I also offer a free market analysis of your property. www.MonicaCorman.com
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